The Ministry of Food Processing
Industries, Government of India, has declared the year 2008-09 as ‘Food
Safety and Quality Year’.
Previously in 2006 the Food Safety and Standards Act 2006 was introduced to give more importance to the safety standards.
safety" implies absence or acceptable and safe levels of contaminants,
adulterants, naturally occurring toxins or any other substance that may
make food injurious to health on an acute or chronic basis.
So how safe is the food that we eat everyday?
We are what we eat. Our nutritional status, health, physical and mental faculties depend on the food we eat and how we eat it.
Food contamination can take place at various stages of the food chain from farm to table.
from chemical contamination of food from various sources such as
industries, vehicles, pesticides and fertilizers, pollution resulting
from growing of vegetables in degraded environmental conditions in
peri-urban zones also affect food safety. This is coupled with further
pollution from vehicles and industries during marketing.
common sources include presence of heavy metals, pesticides,
preservatives, colouring agents and other additives and adulterants in
One of the chief miscreants is the pesticide that is
widely used to bring about food safety in way of minimizing the pest
attacks on crops.Pesticide : a Lurking Menace
are a group of chemicals designed to control weeds, diseases, insects,
fungi or other pests on crops, landscape or animals. The most commonly
used pesticides are insecticides (to control insects), fungicides (to
control fungi) and herbicides (to control weeds). The world has seen
enormous rise of pesticides uses for agricultural purposes to enhance
the food production and feed the population of the world.
uses about 30,000 tons of pesticides a year, more than 60% of it on
food crops. Use of excessive pesticides contaminates soil, water and
finally enters the food chain and contaminates the food produced. About
20% of Indian food products contains pesticide residues above the
tolerance level compared to only 2% globally. No detectable residues
are found in only 49% Indian food products compared to 80% globally.
are widely used throughout the world in agriculture to protect crops
but they pose significant health problems besides commonly
contaminating soil, air and water. The high-risk groups exposed to
pesticides include the production workers, formulators, sprayers,
mixers, loaders and agricultural farm workers.
Nations Environment Program estimates accidental pesticide poisoning
causing 20,000 deaths and 1 million cases of illness per year
worldwide. Pesticides have been implicated in human studies with
leukemia, lymphoma, aplastic anemia, soft tissue sarcoma and cancers of
the breast, brain, prostate, testis and ovaries. The International
Agency for Research on Cancer has found "sufficient" evidence of
carcinogenic potentiality in most of the pesticides beyond the
threshold limit.Legal Provisions
There are legal provisions to combat this menace.
21: (1) of the Food Safety and Standard Act-2006 states that no article
of food shall contain insecticides or pesticides residues, veterinary
drugs residues, antibiotic residues, solvent residues, pharmacological
active substances and micro-biological counts in excess of such
tolerance limits as may be specified by regulations.
insecticide shall be used directly on article of food except fumigants
registered and approved under the Insecticides Act, 1968. Explanation.
-For the purposes of this section, -
(1) "Pesticide residue" means
any specified substance in food resulting from the use of a pesticide
and includes any derivatives of a pesticide, such as conversion
products, metabolites, reaction products and impurities considered to
be of toxicological significance and also includes such residues coming
into food from environment;
Similarly Rule - 65 (Para-XIV) of
the Prevention of the Food Adulteration rule –1955 has the provision on
the restrictive use of pesticides (insecticides) where as Rule 65 (2)
has also stated that the insecticides content shall not exceed the
tolerance limit prescribed for the food items mentioned below.Acceptable Daily Intake and Maximum Residue Limit
prescribed Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) and Maximum Residue Limit
(MRL) for India is being determined based on the recommendation of the
Codex Committee on Pesticides Residues (CCPR) a subsidiary body of the
Codex Alimentarius Commission.
Acceptable Daily Intake or ADI
is a measure of the amount of a specific substance (usually food
adititive or pesticide) in food that can be ingested (orally) over a
lifetime without an appreciable health risk. Without appreciable risk"
refers to the practical certainty that injury will not result, even
after a lifetime of experience. ADIs are expressed by body mass,
usually in milligrams (of the substance) per kilograms of body mass per
day. The concept of ADI was first introduced in 1961 by the Coucil of
Europe and later the Joint Expert Commiitee on Food Additives (JECFA),
a commiitee maintined by two United Nations bodies: the Food and
Agricultural Organisations and WHO.
The ADI is a practical
approach in determining the safety of food. It also serves to ensure
that the actual human intake of a substance is well below toxic levels.
The ADI is generally being determined based on a scientific review of
all available toxicological data on a specific additive D based on both
observations in humans and tests in animals. Laboratory tests in
animals determine the maximum dietary level of the additive that is
without demonstrable toxic effects, i.e., the "No Observable Effect
Level" (NOEL). This level is then extrapolated to man by dividing the
no-effect level by a large factor, often 100. This results in a
substantially lower level for man, and thus a large margin of safety
Residue Limits or MRL for pesticides are established in most countries
to safeguard consumer health and to promote Good Agricultural Practice
(GAP) in the use of insecticides, fungicides, herbicides and other
agricultural compounds. MRL is the maximum concentration of a
substance, expressed in milligrams per kilogram (parts per million,
ppm) or in micrograms per kilogram (parts per billion, ppb) that is
legally permitted in a food commodity.
An MRL is typically
applied to a veterinary drug or a pesticide and is established for
particular food commodities such that potential consumer exposure to
residues is judged to be toxicologically acceptable. The MRL set for a
substance may differ for different food commodities, reflecting the
contribution of the particular food to a "standard" diet. Normal intake
of food containing residue of a substance at its MRL is not expected to
result in the ADI being exceeded.
Since residues of pesticides
and drugs may be broken down in tissue into various metabolites, MRLs
are expressed either in terms of the amount of the parent compound
remaining, or a metabolite that is representative of the residue of
toxicological concern in the food. Estimates are usually made by
comparing the acceptable daily intake (ADI) with a calculation of the
total intake of the residue based on the MRLs and food intake data of
these commodities for which MRLs have been established.
Committee on Pesticides Residue Committee of the Codex Alimentarius
Commission develops and maintains acceptable pesticide Codex maximum
residue limits (MRLs) for food commodities in international trade.
However, neither the USA nor the EU approves Codex MRL. Instead, they
independently set their own standards. But India is accepting MRL
standard determined by Codex. Food Safety and Standard Act-2006
Food Safety and Standard Act –2006, is an important initiative and
development to safe guard food safety and health of the consumer at the
same time giving due importance to safety standards in India. The
objective of the law is to consolidate eight laws governing the food
sector and to establish the Food Safety and Standards Authority (FSSA)
to regulate the sector.
Relevant provisions of the act include:
The act has the features to achieve appropriate levels of protection of
human life and health and protection of consumers’ interests including
fair practices in all kinds of food;
2. Carry out risk management
based on risk assessment; also to adopt risk management measures
necessary to ensure appropriate levels of health protection;
Risk assessment is to be based on the available toxicological
evaluation (e.g. JECFA) and extensive open and transparent discussion
with all stakeholders, and the underlying principle is to ensure
protection of consumers by preventing fraudulent, deceptive or unfair
4. In case of suspected risks of the public
consuming contaminated food, the FSSA will take appropriate steps to
inform the general public of the risk to health;
Protection Act, 1986, provides for the better protection of consumers.
Unlike existing laws, which are punitive or preventive in nature, the
provisions of this Act are compensatory in nature. The act is intended
to provide simple, speedy and inexpensive redressal to the consumers'
grievances, award relief and appropriately compensate the consumer. The
act has been amended in 1993 both to extend its coverage and scope and
to enhance the powers of the redressal machinery.
Safety Act-2006 explicitly deals with the overall concerns related to
food safety in India. The act envisages three-tier quasi-judicial
consumer dispute redressal machinery at the national, state and
district level. These agencies are popularly known as consumer forums
or consumer courts. The Consumer Protection Act, which has been defined
as “the Magna Carta of Consumers”, spells out six consumer rights:
Right to Safety, Right to Information, Right to Choice, Right to
Representation, Right to Redress, and Right to Consumer Education.
Still, the present scenario is not very encouraging. Unfortunately the
consumer courts have become replica of legal courts, as the procedure
is no longer simple and quick. The consumer redressal process is
relatively cumbersome and more expensive and time- consuming than
desired. The process involves engaging a professional personnel for
filing the case and attending the court proceeding and certain other
formalities like producing the bill, warranty cards etc. These
procedures need to be made simpler and quicker for making the process
more meaningful and realistic.
For more in-depth study please refer to link:http://toxicslink.org/pub-view.php?pubnum=216